• <b>Cowan’s Auctions: American History - Premier Auction. June 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> General George Custer's Officer, James McLean Steele, 1868-1869 Diary. $30,000 - $50,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Exceptionally Rare Anti-Slavery Broadside, “A Crusade Against Slavery”. $4,000 - $6,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Revolutionary War General Richard Montgomery, Exceptionally Rare War-Date ANS. $4,000 - $6,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: American History - Premier Auction. June 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Albumen Photograph of the "Scouts of the Plains," from Cody's Personal Collection. $8,000 - $10,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Jefferson Davis, CDV, Signed and Dated to his Imprisonment in Fortress Monroe. $4,000 - $6,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Robert E. Lee, CDV Signed Twice. $2,000 - $4,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: American History - Premier Auction. June 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> “Si Clack: Co. Q, 100th Indiana Vols.,” Written & Illustrated by Civil War Veteran, P.M. Radford. $2,500 - $3,500
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> General Meade Inspecting the 5th Corps, Civil War-Era Sketch by Alfred R. Waud. $2,000 - $3,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Rare Huey Newton Black Panther Party Poster. $3,000 - $5,000
    <b>Cowan’s Auctions: American History - Premier Auction. June 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Lloyd's New Political Chart, 1861. $800 - $1,200
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> William J. Ferguson, “Our American Cousin” Cast Member, Lincoln Assassination Archive. $8,000 - $10,000
    <b>Cowan’s, June 22:</b> Albert Einstein, Signed Photograph in his Favorite Leather Jacket. $2,000 - $4,000
  • <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> ACCADEMIA ERCOLANENSE DI ARCHEOLOGIA. <i>Ornati delle Pareti</i>, Naples 1796. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> AMERICAS. <i>Il Gazzettiere Americano…</i>, Livorno, 1763. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BARROW, John. <i>Travels in China…</i>, London, 1804. £600 to £800
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> BENOIST, Felix. <i>Album de L'Ile de Jersey</i>…, Paris & Nantes, 1870. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> GAIL, Wilhelm. <i>Erinnerungen aus Spanien,</i> Munchen, [ca. 1837]. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HANCARVILLE, Pierre d'. <i>Recherches sur l'origine…,</i> London, Appleyard, 1785. £1,5000 to £2,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> HULLEY, T. <i>Six Views of Cheltenham.</i> London, R. Ackerman, 1813. £800 to £1,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> JEFFERSON, Thomas. <i>Notes on the state of Virginia</i>…, London, 1787. £12,000 to £18,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> LEWIS, John F. <i>Lewis's illustrations of Constantinople…,</i> London, McLean, 1837. £3,000 to £4,000
    <center><b>TIMED ONLINE AUCTION<br>June 11 - 25, 2018</b></center>
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MARQUARD, Johann. <i>Tractatus politico-juridicus,</i> Frankfurt, 1662. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> MAUND, Benjamin. <i>The botanic garden,</i> London, 1825-42. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Mayfair Book Auctions, Jun 11 - 25:</b> Willughby, Francis; John Ray (ed.). <i>Ornithologiæ libri tres</i>. London, John Martyn, 1676. £1,500 to £2,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Thomas Paine, Autograph Letter Signed to Ira Allen, on a rendezvous at the Boston–a Paris café for political exiles, 1790s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Paul Revere, Autograph Document Signed, certifying the discharge of a captain from his regiment, 1779. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Pay order to express rider Jonathan Park to warn Congress of arriving British warships, 1776. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Autograph Letter Signed to Thomas Sim Lee, stating that the government is not authorized to intervene in the Citizen Genêt affair, 1793. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> George Washington, Letter Signed to Nathanael Greene, suggesting a way to obtain money for the Continental Army, 1780. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Andrew Jackson, Autograph Letter Signed to Senator John H. Eaton, on the Seminole Wars & Spain’s duplicity, 1819. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Harry S. Truman, Photograph Signed and Inscribed, showing a false newspaper headline about the 1948 presidential election. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Benjamin Franklin, vellum Document Signed, as President of the Supreme Executive Council of PA, 1786. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Henry Dearborn, two Autograph Manuscript items including a drawing of Bunker’s Hill, unsigned, 1818. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 21:</b> Andrew Jackson, <i>A New Map of the United States,</i> lithograph, circa 1828. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lewis, Meriwether, and William Clark. <i>History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, To the Sources of the Missouri…</i> 1814, first edition. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Poe, Edgar Allan. <i>Tales.</i> New York: Wiley And Putnam, 1845. First edition, first printing, first issue. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Dürer, Albrecht, and Johann Stabius. [Map of the World as a Sphere.] [Vienna,] 1781 (From Woodblocks Cut In 1515). $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Ferdinand, Franz — Lala Deen Dayal [Photographer]. VISIT OF H.I. & H.R. THE ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND OF AUSTRIA ESTE TO HYDERABAD (DECCAN), JANUARY 1893. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 18 - 28:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Manuscript Letter Signed ("Yours Truly A. Lincoln") as Sixteenth President to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles Regarding William Johnson. $200,000 to $300,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2008 Issue

The Government Faces Off Against a Collector for a Declaration of Independence

Wiscasset

Turn of the Century Wiscasset, from the period when the Declaration was in the home of Town Clerk Sol Holbrook.


By Michael Stillman

Another case involving "lost" public documents is playing out in a Virginia court, the type of case we both hate to see and expect to see more of in the days ahead. It pits a public authority against an innocent collector, the latter standing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of a purchase made in good faith. There must be a better way.

The item is a copy of the Declaration of Independence, not the first printing, but a very early one, from 1776. It was printed in Salem, Massachusetts, and apparently went to the Town of Pownalborough in what was then northern Massachusetts. The town is today known as Wiscasset and what was then northern Massachusetts is now known as Maine. Somewhere along the way, as Massachusetts lost Pownalborough and Pownalborough lost its name, Wiscasset lost its copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Today it is in the possession of Richard L. Adams of Virginia. Obviously, he believes he is the owner. He would not have paid $475,000 to borrow it for a few months. Exactly what happened to it between 1776 and 2008 is not certain, but here is what appears to have occurred over the last hundred years or so. It apparently was held by Sol Holbrook, a watchmaker by trade who was Wiscasset's Town Clerk from 1886-1929. It may sound odd, even questionable, that a town clerk would have had important public papers in his home, but those of us who have lived in small town New England will not be surprised at all. These towns would have had few, if any, public facilities, and no place to store the reams of public papers that accumulated over a century and a half. The one person who would be most likely to ever need any of these records would be the Town Clerk, so it is quite natural that they would end up in his house. And, while there might be some call for town minutes or the like from the past decade or so, the need to access records from the distant past would be negligible if not totally nonexistent. Most likely, the records, which included this Declaration of Independence, made their way to Holbrook's attic quite early in his town clerking career, and never saw the light of day again.

After Holbrook died, no one came to reclaim the records for the town. It is likely after all of those years no one knew what he had, and no one cared. So the records ended up in the attic of Holbrook's daughter, Anna Plumstead. It's doubtful either she or her father ever had any idea there was something valuable in there. When she died in 1994, her belongings were put up for auction, and that was when it became clear there was something of value. At that 1995 estate auction, it sold for $77,000. Since then, it has gone through a couple of private sales, at one time being held by London bookseller Simon Finch, before making its way to Adams. Now, Adams wants to sell it, and the State of Maine, which somehow missed the auction in Maine in which it was sold, has hightailed it down to Virginia to seize the copy.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. June 12, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Ortelius. Theatrum orbis terrarum. Antwerp, 1570. FIRST EDITION. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Shakespeare, William. The Tragedie of Julius Caesar. London, 1623. 1st appearance in print, Complete from the First Folio. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Ernst, Max. Mr. Knife and Miss Fork. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. June 12, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. June 12, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. $7,000 to $10,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. June 12, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of Winnie-the-Pooh books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. $6,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. $7,000 to $10,000

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